Goa Speaker rejects pleas to disqualify 12 MLAs (Ld)

In a reprieve to the ruling BJP, the Speaker of the Goa legislative assembly passed two oral orders on Tuesday, dismissing two disqualification petitions filed against 12 saffron party MLAs.

The petitioners, state Congress president Girish Chodankar and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA Sudin Dhavalikar, said that they would take a call on future course of action after going through the written order, a copy of which has not been made available to them yet.

“Now that an order has been passed, we have various options. Our legal team is assessing the options. We will either challenge the Speaker’s order in the high court or mention it in the SC when the matter comes up there,” Chodankar told reporters after emerging from the state assembly complex, where Speaker Rajesh Patnekar dismissed his petition against the BJP MLAs.

Chodankar, as the party’s state president, had filed a disqualification petition with the Goa Speaker’s office in 2019 and argued that the split by the 10 Congress MLAs and their subsequent merger into the BJP was illegal and violative of the provisions of Schedule 10 of the Constitution.

Chodankar had approached the Supreme Court, claiming that Patnekar was delaying his decision, after which the apex court had directed the Speaker to pronounce his order on April 20.

Dhavalikar, who had filed a petition against two BJP MLAs who had quit the MGP to join the ruling party, also told reporters that Patnekar has dismissed his petition.

“Our lawyers will decide once we read the order. We have not got it yet,” Dhavalikar said.

BJP MLAs Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Prabhu Pauskar were elected to the state assembly in 2017 on MGP ticket, but later split from the regional party and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019.

Dhavalikar, who continues to be the lone MGP member in the state assembly, later filed a disqualification petition against the duo.

The BJP in Goa has welcomed the Speaker’s order and has slammed the criticism of the Speaker by the Opposition parties, which have accused Patnekar of acting in a partisan manner and for delaying the order for nearly 20 months.

“BJP welcomes the decision of the Speaker. The Speaker has upheld both the mergers. He has upheld the dignity of the Constitution. We condemn the allegations made against the Speaker,” Goa BJP spokesperson Narendra Sawaikar said.